December 21, 2012

Antigua online gambling hopes dashed

Antigua’s argument with the United States over legalising online gambling took a blow for the small nation this week with the World Trade Organization (WTO) informing the twin-island state that it would not be allowed to raise the matter at an upcoming forum, despite a WTO pronouncement on the case some years ago.

Antigua & Barbuda High Commissioner to London, Dr Carl Roberts, said on Monday government had submitted to the WTO Secretariat a request for the matter to be included on the agenda for deliberation.

But feedback on the matter suggests that the country would not be requesting the authorization after all, since the Secretariat, in consultation with the United States, decided that the country’s request was untimely.

“Antigua & Barbuda is a small, developing country, under particular economic stress in these difficult times. We haven’t the resources to maintain a mission here in Geneva, and the prosecution of this case and the pursuit of our rights under the WTO agreements have been expensive, enormously time consuming and difficult.“It is very unfortunate that we were, under all circumstances, denied the ability to present our suspensions request to this body today. We will be back to do so in January,” High Commissioner Roberts said in a Caribbean 360 report on Tuesday.

The WTO had in 2007 awarded Antigua & Barbuda the right to target US services, copyrights and trademarks in retaliation for the online betting ban, with a US$21 million limit on annual trade sanctions.

These proceedings were initiated in 2003, and the WTO ruling found in 2004 and 2005 that the US had violated its 1994 General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

Government had sought the right to impose US$3.4 billion in retaliatory measures, while Washington offered a mere US$500,000.

The WTO has upheld rulings striking down the US ban, but in 2006 Washington prevented US banks and credit card companies from processing payments to online gambling businesses outside the country. According to Dr Roberts, notwithstanding the disappointment at not having the matter addressed, Antigua & Barbuda was again reiterating its position on the matter.

“We did not come to the decision to exercise our suspension rights lightly… What was once a multi-billion dollar industry in our country, employing almost five percent of our population, has now shrunk to virtually nothing,” the High Commissioner said, adding that domestic remote gaming continues to grow in the United States.

He added that for the past several years, since the last WTO proceeding on the matter, the Antigua Government has not been sitting idly by. Nor has it been imposing unrealistic or unbending demands upon the United States.

“Antigua & Barbuda has been working hard to achieve a negotiated solution to this case. We have tabled proposal after proposal to the US government, and attended session after session, in pretty much every case involving our delegation travelling to Washington, DC in hopes of finding some common ground,” Dr Roberts said.

He pleaded to the WTO that to date, the USA has not presented one compromise offer of their own, and in particular the US Trade Representative has made no sincere effort to develop and prosecute a comprehensive solution that would end our dispute.

“We have spent the past five years searching, at great expense and considerable effort for our little country, for the person or persons, the agency or agencies, whomever has the authority and will to work with us to come to a reasonable, just and fair resolution of our dispute,’ Roberts said, noting however, “Sadly we have never found that person, that agency, that whomever.”

The High Commissioner pointed out that the twin-island state maintains that a WTO “member can avoid its obligations to another member under the WTO agreements by simply removing or modifying the part of the agreement that a measure offends, making bilateral arrangements with other members, and leaving the supposedly prevailing member with no remedy at all.”

December 20, 2012

Lederer settles with US DOJ

Howard Lederer, the former Full Tilt Poker director & Black Friday is reported to have come to an agreement with the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York in regards to a civil claim filed by the US DOJ.

Whilst agreeing to forfeit the unknown amount of certain bank accounts, vehicles & property, Lederer was not required to admit any wrongdoing.

In an amended civil complaint filed last September, the US Attorney quantified the liability of Lederer in the FTP issue as around $42.5 million.

The settlement agreement also requires Lederer to pay $1.25 million in additional funds, due over the next three years, along with the forfeiture of a vintage automobile, & the proceeds of the sale of two Las Vegas properties.

Also in the agreement from the US DOJ is that Lederer may not work for or take earnings from any internet gambling businesses in the United States until federal law makes the pastime legal, after which he is required to obtain prior authorisation from the appropriate government regulatory body.

Lederer is the second former FTP exec to reach a settlement with the US authoirities – in November Rafe Furst agreed to various forfeitures, but was not required to admit wrongdoing.

Sportingbet investors anger over senior pay-offs

2012 was the year of the Shareholder Spring and we almost certainly saw the last one of the year on Wednesday as more than 20% of Sportingbet investors staged a rebellion over multi-million pound pay-offs for the betting companies senior executives.

The company is expected to announce as early as Friday that it has accepted a £485m takeover approach from rival William Hill and GVC Holdings.

However, Andrew McIver Sportingbet’s chief executive, and its finance director, Jim Wilkinson, will not have a bad Christmas if the company does accept as they walk away from the group with two years’ worth of salary, bonuses, pension payments and other benefits if they leave as expected following the acquisition.

The bumper two-year pay-offs contravene the UK corporate governance code and attracted the ire of one of the major shareholders, group Pirc.

At Sportingbet’s annual meeting on Wednesday, more than 20% of votes were cast against the company’s remuneration report. It was the second time Sportingbet has received controversy over executive pay and almost 14% of investors voted against its remuneration report at 2011’s annual meeting.

Mr McIver, 49, who has been chief executive of Sportingbet since 2006, could walk away with a severance package worth up to £2.4m if a maximum bonus is approved.

The betting boss also holds more than 3m Sportingbet shares, meaning he stands to bank more than £1.7m in cash and shares if William Hill’s latest offer is accepted.

The three parties have until Friday to agree a deal.

William Hill and GVC recently reduced their offer to 56.1p from 61.1p a share following weaker than expected quarterly results from Sportingbet. The majority of Sportingbet shareholders are expected to receive about 50.4p a share in cash, while the remainder will be paid in GVC shares.

Schleswig Holstein issues 12 online licenses

A total of twelve online operators have all secured online gambling license approval in the German state of Schleswig Holstein. The twelve major gambling operators include,, Bet365 and PokerStars, each receiving six-year licences to offer casino and games to the residents of Schleswig Holstein.

A less than enthusiastic Interior Minister, Andreas Breitner, explained that whilst the issue was politically troubling for him, the state had an obligation to respect the existing law, which required that licensing be granted.

However, he again stressed that the intention of the current government is to repeal the existing Gambling Act & re-join the German Treaty.

How such a repeal will sit with the new licensees in legal terms, & for that matter the European Commission, remains to be seen.

Rank may have to sell for Gala deal to proceed

The Rank Group, whom own the Grosvenor Casinos business could be required to find buyers for a number of casinos, or be prohibited from buying these casinos, before its acquisition of Gala Casinos Limited (Gala) can go ahead, after the Competition Commission (CC) provisionally found that the merger could damage competition in six areas of the UK.

In May 2012, Rank announced a deal to acquire from Gala 23 casinos and three ‘cold’ licences (where the operator holds the right to operate a casino in a particular area but does not currently have an operating casino there). The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) referred the case to the CC in August, and although the deal subsequently lapsed, the parties have confirmed that they are still pursuing the merger. Rank and Gala are two of the three large national casino operators in the UK. Following the merger, there would be only two large national casino operators, Rank and Genting.

In its provisional findings published today, the CC has identified five areas where customers could suffer from a substantial lessening of competition (SLC) as a result of Rank taking ownership of previously competing casinos. The five areas are Aberdeen, Liverpool/New Brighton, Stockton-on-Tees, Bristol and Cardiff. In addition the CC has identified an SLC in one area (Edinburgh) where Rank holds a cold licence which would likely be developed into a competing casino in the absence of the merger.

The CC has also found that casinos compete mainly at a local level for customers, particularly on elements such as customer service and promotions.

As well as the provisional findings, the CC has published a notice of possible remedies, which sets out ways in which the CC might address the loss of competition in the areas concerned. The options identified include requiring Rank to find buyers for casinos in the five areas identified-as well as for the Edinburgh cold licence-before being allowed to com-plete the deal. The notice also includes the possibility of the casinos in affected areas being excluded from the transaction or the whole deal being blocked.

Chairman of the Rank/Gala Inquiry Group and CC Deputy Chairman, Professor Martin Cave said:

‘We have found that casinos vary their offer in response to local competitive conditions and while there is limited scope to compete on price, casinos try to attract customers through customer service, promotions, events and the range of games available.

‘Our concern is that with two of the national players merging, this will leave a number of areas with much reduced competition where casino customers could consequently lose out through a poorer casino offer.

‘We are now going to look at the most effective way to preserve competition in these areas and whether this can be achieved in a way that allows an amended version of the deal to go ahead.’

The CC is expected to publish its final report by 20 February 2013.

December 17, 2012 and Belgian Gambling Commission will quarrel no more

Online gaming firm digital entertainment has solved its Belgian woes by agreeing a deal with Belcasinos that will see the two collaborating to offer services in the country’s regulated gambling market. The land-based firm is a subsidiary of Groupe Partouche and it will give the chance to offer online sports betting, poker and casino games using their brands in Belgium. (N.B. It wasn’t like they weren’t offering them before, they just realized after arrest-gate that Belgian meant business).

The deal has been rubber stamped by the Belgian Gambling Commission with the company’s sites “in the process” of being removed from the BGC’s blacklist. After the agreement Jim Ryan and Norbert Teufelberger, co-CEOs of, added: “Following recent developments in Belgium and after further dialogue with the local regulator, we have put our differences of opinion behind us and are now focused on the immediate commercial opportunity.”

The “difference in opinion” relates to the fact that continued to operate in the country unlicensed for some time and saw its sites put on the country’s blacklist of unlicensed sites. It culminated in the soon-to-be-lone CEO Teufelberger being detained for questioning by Belgian cops at the behest of BGC. Being detained in Belgian could have far reaching effects with some thinking the US regulators won’t look kindly upon it when they try to gain a licence in any state that decides to regulate.

Partouche now has a number of partnerships in the Belgian market with the agreement added to another with WMS-owned Jackpot Party. These are in addition to the firm’s own offering. Jacques Frojman, CEO of Belcasino and Partouche Belgium added: “ is a market leader in online gaming with strong brands in sports betting, poker and casino. We are thrilled to be working with such a quality partner in Belgium.”

The damage may already be done for as the US regulatory system won’t look kindly upon the company CEO being harangued by various police forces over the past decade or so. This is before you take into account their selective compliance with regulatory regimes across their most important market – Europe. November and December has been an eventful couple of months for and things aren’t about to slow down in 2013 in what will be a pivotal year for the company.

December 14, 2012

Betfair to take new direction off the back of steady results

UK exchange betting specialists Betfair expect full year results to be lagging behind the previous year as the company’s sluggish performance continued through the first half of the year. Group revenue grew just 5 percent to £200.6million with various regulatory problems meaning the firm’s underlying operating profit dropped by 25 percent to £19.6million. The group expects the uncertainty to continue for the rest of the year with the “ongoing impact” of regulation costing them £3.5million every month.

Sports continued their strong performance with revenue up 8 percent in the period with football revenue, driven by Euro 2012 and a higher number of lower-league fixtures, increasing by 15 percent. Mobile continued its triple-figure growth with a 108 percent increase in revenue to £18.1million as 50 percent of UK and Irish customers used a mobile to place a bet. Over 20 percent of casino customers now use mobile as well. Games revenue wasn’t so lucky as it dropped by 2 percent after being “significantly affected by regulation” and poker revenue took a hit with revenue down 11 percent.

The performance has led them to identify various parts of the business that need looking at. They will try to reinvigorate the business by focusing on regulated jurisdictions to “increase sustainability of revenues” whilst at the same time making sure to “invest in product and brand to enhance our competitive position and drive growth”. The group will also “introduce greater accountability and become a leaner and more dynamic business”. To that end they’ve identified circa £20million worth of savings already and CEO Breon Corcoran commented that he is “excited to be leading Betfair through this change.” The first savings will involve ceasing investment in financial trading firm LMAX and social gaming business Kabam.

All of the doom and gloom means that drowning ones sorrows will be at the top of the agenda when the full year results come out in April. The company expects these to be lower than the previous year with group revenue estimated to fall between £370million and £385million and underlying EBITDA between £65m and £70m. Luckily for Betfair the market doesn’t seem too fussed by the results and their share price rose this morning by 1.18 percent to 773p. Every cloud.

December 12, 2012

888 friends Facebook for real money launch

UK-listed online gaming operator 888 is to launch a portfolio of real-money gaming products on Facebook targeting British consumers.

The agreement with Facebook is a major coup for 888, which becomes only the second real-money gambling provider to reach such a deal with the world’s largest social network.

888 will utilise its existing social gaming operation Mytopia to offer its real-money bingo, casino and slot games on the UK Facebook platform, but interestingly, not poker.

888 will initially offer its Bingo Appy branded app via the platform, with a casino offering including slots and other popular games scheduled to follow shortly.

“888 has long recognised the potential for social gaming,” said 888 chief operating officer Itai Frieberger. “Our Facebook freemium (play-for-fun) offerings have found a significant audience, and we are very excited by the opportunity that real money gaming on Facebook provides.

“We are working closely with Facebook on this launch, ensuring we introduce the best of both worlds of real money and social gaming.”

Julien Codorniou, head of games partnerships for Facebook in Europe, added: “Facebook is a great platform for playing games and with your friends and we are really pleased to be working with 888, who have a strong reputation on both the quality and safety of their games.”

Shares in 888 Holdings plc (Co. Data) (LSE:888) were trading up 0.92 per cent in London this morning shortly after the announcement at 110.25 pence per share.

December 11, 2012

Bayern Munich have been declared Bundesliga champions by one betting company

Bayern Munich have been declared Bundesliga champions by one betting company before the halfway stage of the season.

Bayern take an 11-point advantage into the last round of matches in 2012 and anybody who had placed a bet on them winning the league with myBet can enjoy an early Christmas present as the company is already paying out.

"Bayern's dominance and the quality and strength in depth they have in their squad speaks for itself," said myBet's general manager Edward Mifsud on

"No other Bundesliga club can compete with them this season."

Bayern are already 14 points clear of defending champions Borussia Dortmund - who managed to overturn an eight-point deficit on the Bavarians last season, but are looking unlikely to bridge an even greater gap this time around.

"It's not only the advantage on second place, but it is also their huge goal difference of plus 37 which earns them an extra point," added Mifsud.

Dortmund's 81-point Bundesliga record from last season is also under threat with Bayern, who have lost only once all season, already on 41 points with one game to go before the halfway stage of the season.

December 10, 2012

Euromillions takes the lottery international

Euromillions has launched a new website, which expands its lottery currently spanning 9 European countries across the globe, significantly increasing the player and prize pool.

The Euromillions lottery has been around for almost ten years and has become one of the largest lotteries in the world. With the launch of, the lottery has become easier to play as it grows and reaches a wider audience. makes the lottery available to players worldwide while providing user friendly features to simplify the lottery playing process.

Prior to the launch of the website, Euromillions lottery tickets were only available for in person purchase in any of the 9 participating European countries. During this time, the lottery grew in popularity and prize sums increased rapidly.

The website offers lottery ticket purchase to qualified players anywhere in the world and conveniently deposits winnings into a player’s bank account. This represents a marked break from traditional methods of playing lotteries, when a player would have to collect winnings in person. No more pesky trips to Europe. Then again, after winning a lottery trips to Europe may not be so pesky anymore.

Additionally, purchasing tickets online offers a degree of security that could not be conferred with physical tickets. A physical ticket added the risk of suspicious persons finding and redeeming a player’s ticket. Euromillions avoids this by connecting a virtual ticket to its purchaser. These feature will certainly attract players who would prefer to avoid the hassle of traditional lotteries.

The online convenience that Euromillions provides only sweetens the deal for lottery players. With jackpots that can reach €190 million and a generous prize structure with 13 categories, there are huge prize pools at stake.

The Euromillions website is laid it out in an easy-to-follow format that walks players through 4 easy steps to purchase a ticket. It also serves as an outlet for Euromillions related stories and keeps players up to date on the lottery drawings and news. By streamlining the process, the website will increase the number of players and also the prize sums.

December 07, 2012

William Hill announces its withdrawl from Greek market

William Hill has announced that William Hill Online will no longer make its products available to customers located in Greece until such time that there is greater clarity on the regulatory approach to be taken by the Greek authorities in relation to such customers.

On 5 November 2012, the Greek Gaming Commission issued a Decision that includes provisions for financial penalties and criminal sanctions against gaming operators that continue to accept custom from the market after 5 December without a locally issued licence. William Hill believes that there are significant issues with the legality and enforceability of these proposals; however, until greater clarity is received, it has taken the decision to withdraw from this market.

Based on legal advice, it considers the gambling legislation in Greece to be inconsistent with European law and the associated fiscal conditions attached to these licences – which may include payment of retrospective taxes on past revenues – makes the market economically unattractive. On this basis, William Hill Online does not currently intend to apply for a licence to operate in Greece.

William Hill, along with other operators, has been working with various parties to achieve legislation that allows fair competition in the market in Greece and elsewhere. William Hill is disappointed that the European Commission continues, despite previously stated intentions to the contrary, not to take effective action to prevent protectionist behaviour on behalf of member states, of which the Greek, German and Belgian regimes are only the most recent examples.

Prior to the decision to withdraw from Greece, William Hill Online had been expecting to generate £4-5 million of operating profit p.a. from Greek resident customers.

December 06, 2012

Irish Olympian Peter O’Leary off the hook on Olympic betting allegations

By virtue of what can be best described as naiveté-can-get-you-off-the-hook, Irish sailor and Olympian Peter O’Leary will not face an Olympic ban after betting on one of his direct competitors to win at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. After a four-month investigation that began shortly after the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Olympics, the International Olympic Committee determined that O’Leary didn’t do anything wrong, except for not knowing that Olympic athletes are prohibited from making bets on Olympic events, especially those that they’re competing in.

According to a statement on the IOC’s website, the Executive Board decided to “issue a warning to Irish sailor Peter O’Leary who admitted betting on an Olympic sailing event at the Beijing 2008 Games, but denied any competition fixing.”

In explaining the proverbial slap on the wrist punishment given to O’Leary, IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters that there was no evidence of O’Leary engaging in some kind of match-fixing and that the Irish sailor’s only fault was not knowing he could not bet on Olympic events.

“It is not something we agree with and we condemn it, but we will not take any more action,” Adams added.

According to Eurosport Asia, O’Leary made two bets worth a total of €300 on the British boat to win the gold medal in the Star class at the 2008 Beijing Olympics at 12/1 odds (an event that he actually failed to qualify in). O’Leary’s call for the British to win proved to be correct, netting the sailor €3,600.

It can be said that O’Leary was fortunate enough to have made those wagers during the 2008 Olympics. It was a time when the IOC was only beginning its campaign to educate athletes on the risk of irregular and illegal betting. Had he made the wagers at the 2012 London Olympics, though, then we wouldn’t be surprised if the IOC did give him a lifetime ban.

But as such, the unique circumstance surrounding the time he made the wager, coupled with his admission that he didn’t know that it was illegal to bet on any Olympic event, prompted the IOC to be lenient on his punishment. No bans, just a warning akin to a heavy slap on the wrist.

For all intents and purposes, that’s like the equivalent of winning a gold medal.

December 05, 2012 Co-CEO Jim Ryan To Retire

One of the iGaming industry’s strongest marriages is coming to an amicable end after digital entertainment announced that Jim Ryan is retiring from his position as co-CEO of the group. Ryan will leave his role at the iGaming firm on Jan. 15, 2013, and retire to a life of pancakes and poutine in Canada.

Commenting on his departure, Ryan said: “Being Co-CEO of has been my dream job. As we approach the final stages of our merger integration I am immensely proud of what we have achieved and know that with Norbert at the helm, the business is in excellent hands and is particularly well-placed for the future. Having given over 11 years of my life to the online gaming industry, I am now looking forward to returning to Canada and enjoying more time with my family.”

Ryan can lay claim to being the group’s first ever CEO from the time bwin and PartyGaming merged back in March 2011. Before that he was at the helm of PartyGaming from June 2008 and in the past worked in Gibraltar for the iGaming firm St Minver during his career in the industry that stretches back to 2001.

It turns out that Ryan’s speech at October’s Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, which focused on iGaming’s prospects in the USA, was one of his last as co-head honcho of – so get those conference lanyards up on eBay for a quick buck! It’s the precursor to the company’s continued efforts towards becoming one of the first companies to move into the US market and Ryan is hopeful part of his legacy will include facilitating the company’s passage into the US market.

The company is now left in the hands of a man that has been more used to the back seat of a prison van than anything else in the past few weeks – Norbert Teufelberger. Shareholders will start to see over the coming months and years whether Ryan was the more intelligent of the two of them all along. Does it mean Norbert will finally start to get involved in more of those dirty unregulated markets that he likes so much? Is he just a power hungry narc? Or is Ryan simply not really bothered anymore? Only time – or the stock market – will tell…

December 04, 2012

Microgaming rebrands its Poker Network to the ‘MPN’

Microgaming, the world’s largest provider of online gaming software, announces the re-brand of its main poker network to the ‘MPN’ and the launch of its new website.

The MPN, formerly called the Microgaming Poker Network, has undergone a significant transformation over the past two years, encompassing sweeping changes to its design, architecture and game offering.

Lydia Melton, Microgaming Head of Network Games, commented, “The rebrand of the network to MPN and the launch of the network website are both significant milestones for Microgaming poker.”

The rebrand to ‘MPN’ marks the culmination of a project, initiated in January 2010, which includes the following changes:
- A new poker lobby, designed for both beginner and advanced players, rolling out to operators over Q4 2012 and Q1 2013;
- A re-architecture of the poker platform, live January 2010;
- A new Flash client, rolling out alongside the new poker lobby;
- An HTML5 client;
- Blaze Poker;
- Anonymous Tables;
- Joint promotions with key operators, live December 2012;
- True Value, a unique and patent-pending rake allocation model;
- The formation of the Network Management Board, the industry’s first operator/network board, which works to shape the development roadmap and strategies for the entire MPN, and is now a year old.

The final steps in this process are the re-brand of the poker network and the launch of the network website. Success of the project can be clearly quantified. Over the last several weeks, announcements have been made for new operators joining the network, including Betsson, BetVictor and iGame Malta. Additional operators have signed with Microgaming and intend to launch over the coming weeks.

“We are approaching our 10th year in operation, and we are stronger than ever,” added Melton, “However, we will not be resting on our laurels. What we have done with all these changes is build the framework for a scalable and sustainable network. Now that the framework is in place, we are more flexible, resilient and adaptable to change.”

UK publishes draft gambling act revisions for wary industry to contemplate

The UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published its long-awaiting draft legislation on Monday.

The Draft Gambling (Licensing & Advertising) Bill amends existing legislation to require all operators that advertise and accept bets from UK customers to obtain a license and pay tax on UK wagers.

Changes were first proposed back in mid-2011, followed by a period of industry consultation. It received the expected mention in the 2012 budget, and the legislation could be adopted by the end of 2014.

The existing system, introduced in the 2005 Gambling Act, saw the creation of the new UK Gambling Commission to oversee the licensing and regulation of online gaming in the UK along with traditional gambling. Since 2005, all operators in the UK are required to apply for a license and pay 15% tax on gross profits.

However, it also introduced a “white list” of foreign jurisdictions, which includes all the European Economic Area, Gibraltar, Alderney, Isle of Man, Tasmania and Antigua and Barbuda. Companies in these areas may continue to operate in the UK while avoiding the UK’s high levy. The result was the vast majority of the online gambling moved offshore.

The new bill thus proposes a switch to a “point of consumption tax,” meaning the location of the bettor, not the operator, is the deciding factor on what tax must be paid. Under the new legislation, rake collected by a poker room attributed to a player in the UK will be subject to taxation.

The current tax of 15% on gross profits introduced in 2005 has been deemed too high by many in the industry. The new draft bill does not specify a tax rate. The DCMS itself recently released a report that concluded that the 15% taxation forced many online operators offshore, and if maintained when switching to a point of consumption tax could lead to 40% of the industry leaving the market.

William Hill has strongly opposed the plan and is considering its legal options.

In the “impact assessment” report in the draft bill, it concludes that “the proposals are cost- and benefit-neutral to British-based remote gambling operators, as there will be no additional costs and may even be some … marginal net benefits in relation to fees.”

The point does not apply for the majority of operators, who are no longer “British-based” since the introduction of the 2005 legislation. Although there are approximately 100 active licenses issued by the UKGC to online operators, most are smaller casino and bingo sites; nearly all major online poker rooms and bookmakers are based in white-listed jurisdictions.

The bill promises an easy transition for these operators, with a transitional period where operators receive automatic provisional licenses.

“The proposals not designed to duplicate the work of other regulators or to unnecessarily increase burdens imposed on operators,” it also states. Operators in unspecified “well-regulated jurisdictions” will not face significant increases in licensing costs.

Beyond the increased costs of operation, which may be a cost partially passed on to the customer, online poker players should see little change to the introduction of the new legislation. There is no requirement for segregating the player pool, reducing stakes and games spread, or other such restrictions.

November 28, 2012

Apple to revolutionize gambling on TV

Apple is reported to be working on a television set that will change the way we watch TV and gamble.

According to business rumors, the launch of Apple’s highly awaited television set is “imminent.”, the gossip has been around for at least two years, but recent leaks from various sources suggest the expected debut is as near as the early first half of 2013.

Allegedly, the design will resemble Apple’s LED Cinema Displays, but much bigger. Imagine watching a horse racing broadcast in normal size, and not in an iPhone gambling app.

The new TV will come with built-in Siri enabling viewers to control it without a remote. Facetime will be used on the big screen for high-quality video chat. Apple is supposed to include a console similar to Xbox Kinect as well.

Maybe the most interesting is how Apple handles TV content. The boys in Cupertino want to offer TV channels as streaming apps on their television that one can stream content through. You could pay for each app channel individually instead of subscribing for a package as you would normally do at your cable provider.

You will be able to reach all sorts of extras including mobile gambling content on your Apple devices that are connected with the television set. Apple devices such as iPhone, iPod or iPad could control your TV using a version of AirPlay.

Apple has not even commented on its television plans. There are no known names for the new product. Possible guesses include iTV, “iPanel” or simply just “Apple TV.”

Whatever Apple’s choice will be, we can be sure that its approach towards television will change the rules as iPod changed the music business, iPhone transformed the mobile industry and iPads created a new category in personal computing, gaming and mobile casinos.

November 21, 2012

California approves exchange-wagering rules; implementation at least months away

The California Horse Racing Board approved rules allowing for exchange wagering in the state on Thursday, but the launch of such wagers is still months away and faces the potential of legal challenges, officials said.

The state’s Office of Administrative Law is expected to receive the rules and supporting documents from the racing board in early December, and will have 30 working days to review materials. If the rules are approved, the racing industry can move forward in early 2013 with the implementation of the oversight technology and training to administer exchange wagering in the state.

A racetrack and horsemen’s group would then need to reach a financial agreement with an account-wagering provider and receive approval from the board before exchange wagering could start.

If the Office of Administrative Law expresses concern about the 25 rules approved on Thursday, it is possible that the legal approval could be delayed extensively.

There is also the possibility of lawsuits that could challenge the legality of exchange wagering, which allows bettors to back or lay horses to win or lose. Exchange wagering was approved by the state legislature in 2010, pending the development of rules by the racing board.

Betfair-TVG officials told the racing board on Thursday that they need several months before they are ready to implement exchange wagering in California.

Betfair-TVG and approached the board for licenses to conduct exchange wagering. The board issued a provisional license to Betfair-TVG, subject to the opinion of the office of administrative law on exchange wagering rules. is expected to apply for a provisional license in the near future.

The two account-wagering providers were asked to purchase computer hardware and software that will be used in the racing’s board regulation of exchange wagering. The cost of the software is part of the account-wagering providers’ license fee to conduct exchange wagering.

The hardware, software, and training of staff has an estimated cost of $530,000 through the end of the fiscal year, on June 30, 2013. All exchange-wagering providers must pay for regulation of such wagers, according to the 2010 legislation.

November 14, 2012

Greece gives online operators until Dec. 6 to get lost or face blacklist, prison

Truly, this week is only a couple days old but the board of directors at digital entertainment likely already wishes it was over. As co-CEO Norbert Teufelberger beats an inglorious retreat to the UK following his detention by Belgian police, Greece is now telling and other unlicensed operators serving Greek punters to get the hell out of Dodge (and Athens) by Dec. 6 or face a decade in prison, up to €500k in fines and ‘severe administration penalties,’ which we assume means being forced to untangle the country’s messy finances using only a slide rule and a No. 2 pencil.

The Hellenic Gaming Commission issued warning notices on Nov. 5 to all operators currently serving the Greek market without the government’s say-so. These operators are being given a one-month grace period in which to wind down their affairs, after which any operators still serving the market will be put on a blacklist (much as in Belgium). Banks will be forbidden to process transactions for any company on the blacklist and IP-blocking will cut off punter access. The Commission’s notice said it was asking for support from other EU regulators “and will appreciate proactivity” by same “to inform and strongly advise” operators they regulate to comply with Greek wishes.

Greece passed a new gaming law in August 2011, which was supposed to be followed by a public tender for online gaming licenses. While that has yet to occur, Greece issued temporary permits to 24 operators – including Sportingbet and Paddy Power – on the condition that they ante up two years of back taxes (similar to what transpired in Spain). Other major European operators, including Betfair, Bet365 and William Hill, chose instead to file a grievance (via the Remote Gambling Association) with the European Commission over what they viewed as the Greek gaming law’s discriminatory provisions., reportedly Greece’s online gambling market leader, also chose not to apply for a license and filed its own EC complaint in November via its European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) mouthpiece. Unless has learned a lesson from Tuesday’s strong-arm tactics in Belgium, a business-as-usual approach in Greece would result in its name appearing on yet another blacklist and creating another no-fly zone for execs.

With’s Nevada online poker tech provider license application hearing expected sometime early in the new year, shareholders are likely starting to wonder if execs are treating the hearing as a foregone conclusion. If continued nose-thumbing at European regulators ultimately proves too blatant for US regulators to ignore and eliminates the possibility of adding a US revenue stream, could the next AGM be a bring-your-own-pitchfork-and-torch affair? (Entirely uncorroborated scuttlebutt has Teufelberger’s arrest the result of a tipoff Belgian authorities received from co-CEO Jim Ryan, who is presumably itching to ditch the ‘co-’ from his business card.)

Of course, the public companies currently doing business in Greece will eventually ‘choose’ to leave, much in the way one ‘chooses’ to keep breathing. Their shareholders have no appetite for risk and video clips of senior management being frog-marched away in handcuffs tend to have a depressing effect on share prices. Public protestations about ‘illegal’ laws don’t mean much in practical terms; it’s been seven years since the World Trade Organization declared the US anti-online gambling stance to be a breach of international trade rules yet Antigua still hasn’t received its rightful redress.

It will be interesting to see how the Greeks treat Playtech, which, via its partnership with German outfit Gauselmann, is one of eight prospective bidders for the Greek government’s one-third stake in lottery/betting monopoly OPAP. Playtech also supplies technology to a number of Greek-facing operators, including (for the moment) William Hill Online. If Playtech licensees choose to ignore the Greek blacklist, would Playtech escape criticism and/or legal action?

In the past, Playtech has taken an “it’s our clients that are breaking the law, not us” stance regarding its revenue streams from licensees operating in China, Malaysia and Germany, but much will depend on how broadly Greece chooses to define ‘operator.’ As with’s Belgian brouhaha, the fallout from the Greek clampdown may extend well beyond its borders. The fact that Playtech founder Teddy Sagi did time in an Israeli prison in the 1990s for stock manipulation was noted by Nevada regulators when William Hill’s sports betting license was being considered and further European controversy might eliminate any possibility of Playtech participating in a regulated US online poker market.

November 08, 2012

Microgaming heralds another win with Betsson move

The Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) has received another boost with the addition of to the network.

Betsson will offer its poker customers access to MPN alongside its existing offering on the Ongame Network, while its Euro Tables product powered by IGT Entraction will close down on November 20th as a result of IGT’s decision to close the network.

Microgaming said Wednesday that it has worked closely with Betsson and a number of other key operators in shaping the design and functionality of the new MPN lobby, with Betsson one of the first operators to go live with the improved interface.

“We are thrilled to have join the Microgaming Poker Network,” said Microgaming’s head of networked games, Lydia Melton. “The MPN has undergone a transformation this year, and we are delighted that our efforts have resulted in the signing of such major operators. We look forward to working closely with on the MPN and in the Network Management Board over the coming years.”

Henric Andersson, product director at Betsson Group, added: “The MPN is one of the world’s most established online poker networks; naturally we are delighted to be joining the MPN. At, we strive to create the finest gaming experience for our players and we are confident that by adding the MPN to our offering, we will deliver an exceptional experience to all of our poker players.”

November 06, 2012

Full Tilt relaunch – 22,000 players on site in one hour

The long awaited relaunch of the hugely popular online poker site, Full Tilt Poker started up for business just one hour ago, with tens of thousands of players jumping on the website to play, cashout and generally see what the new owner PokerStars had done to FTP.

Reports early on have said there are problems with players depositing on the FTP site, however there seems no problems for the players looking to withdraw the $184 million that has been frozen in their accounts since the previous owners left the company in almost collapse prior to PokerStars saving the online site and indeed the millions of poker players funds.

With so much traffic on the website there will be teething problems, but at present apart from the odd player having a problem depositing funds using credit card, it seems the FTP launch has been a huge success.

November 01, 2012

$181 million loss for MGM Resorts in Q3

MGM Resorts International on Wednesday reported its loss for the third quarter widened, however the gaming company posted improved revenue, led by its business in Macau.

The Las Vegas-based company lost $181.2 million in the three months ending September 30th compared with a loss of $123.8 million a year earlier.

Revenue rose 1% to $2.25 billion from the year-earlier quarter. The company attributed the increase to a 7% rise in sales at its Chinese subsidiary, MGM China in Macau.

The MGM China unit, which accounts for early 30% of the company’s overall business, gained approval earlier this month to build a $2.5 billion casino on the Cotai Strip, its second resort in Macau.

MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren said it will be a matter of months until the company breaks ground on the Cotai resort, with a completion date of three years. He didn’t believe the project would suffer from a slowdown in the Chinese economy.

“Gaming in Macau is a $36 billion to $37 billion industry today,” Murren said. “We are only scratching the surface. It’s a young market. We are helping to drive it to become a $50 billion plus gaming market.”

MGM Resorts competes with Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Las Vegas Sands Corp. in Macau, the world’s largest gambling region.

MGM Resorts’ revenues have improved over the last few years, driven by steady growth in Macau and improved figures from its Las Vegas hotels and casinos after a share downturn during the recession.

“Our third-quarter operating results are reflective of a challenging consumer environment,” Murren said. “But we had some bright spots with strong results from MGM Grand Las Vegas and The Mirage and record third quarters from MGM China and City Center.”

Murren said fourth-quarter “trends are improving at our domestic resorts and forward convention booking pace is showing growth in 2013 and is further accelerating into 2014.”

MGM Resorts, which owns a dozen casinos on the Strip and others cross the country, reported revenue at U.S. casinos increased 2%. However, room revenue was off by 3% as Strip revenue per available room declined 2% as the occupancy rate fell to 92% from 95%.

“We are still far from where we were in 2006 and 2007 in terms of spending patterns,” Murren said. “But we are getting there. The consumer is coming back to Las Vegas.”

Full Tilt Poker opens for play money

Full Tilt Poker has opened up for business again, albeit for play money but the once famous site has launched today without any PR for online players to enjoy the games prior to the real money launch on the 6th November.

Currently when going to press there were 990 players playing at the site and 13,539 tables including around 15 Rush Poker tables

Upon opening the old client players are prompted to upgrade their software before the site recommends choosing a new password. The cashier is accessible with this writer’s balance fully restored – the first time it has been viewable in 16 months.

The site is open primarily for beta-testing and has a host of new features including account pairing with PokerStars (which bought Full Tilt Poker in July 2012), double and triple chance tournaments, auto post on all tables, and preferred seat selection.

Macau gambling revenues rise over 3% in October

Gambling revenue in Macau rose 3.2% in October year-on-year, government data showed on Thursday.

October’s revenue of 27.7 billion patacas ($3.5 billion) was the strongest revenue figure this year. Analysts had forecast growth of around 2% during the month.

Slower economic growth in China and heightened political scrutiny as the country prepares for a generational power shift have been keeping many cash-rich Chinese gamblers away from Macau’s baccarat tables.

Spending by China’s expanding middle class has kept overall gambling revenues from dropping significantly, but growth rates have fallen substantially over the past six months.

October 30, 2012

Phil Ivey to open new poker site

The specualtion about what Phil Ivey will put his name too since leaving Full Tilt Poker is over, the worlds leading name in poker whom undoubtedly had numerous offers and many thought he might join PokerStars, is launching his own poker site called “” a site dedicated to training aspiring players in the ways of Phil Ivey.

The site is currently under construction, but already Ocotober-Niner Greg Merson has been signed-up to represent the site.

While many have speculated that the site will become a full fledged money poker room – something which there is certainly potential for it to become in the future – will currently only be a poker training site.

Ivey said in a recent interview “I think a lot of people really don’t know how to play poker, and I think this is going to be an opportunity to play with the best players in the world.”

Also joining Ivey on the site will be former Full Tilt buddies, Patrik Antonius and Jennifer Harman.

When the site will launch and exactly what it will contain is unknown, but if it’s got Phil Ivey’s name on it then it will certainly attract a lot of interest.

Dutch coalition Government discuss sale of Holland Casino

The new Dutch ruling coalition of three political parties (the Liberal Party, Volkspartij voor en Democratie & the Labor Party) have announced their plans to modernise the gambling policies in the Netherlands aswell as reaching an agreement on the sale of the state-owned Holland Casino.

A gaming tax on land-based lottery & online gambling is in the pipeline for implementation in 2015.

Online gambling regulations will include:

Online gambling market to be legalised & regulated by the next termAn initial suggestion of a 29 percent gaming tax levied at online providers
Illegal providers currently providing services to Dutch residents to be excluded from the process

Licences withdrawn on non-payment of prescribed gaming tax

Modernisation of the Dutch online gambling policy will encompass regulation of the internet gambling, sports betting & poker sectors.

October 29, 2012

Couple ‘bet’ on mob: DA

An Arizona couple’s sports-betting software made them $20 million in licensing fees — and the mob more than $1 billion in illegal gambling proceeds, law-enforcement sources say.

Robert Stuart, 53, and his wife, Susanne, 50, accused of creating and licensing software used in illegal sports betting from California to New York, were hauled in handcuffs yesterday into a Manhattan court.

Each faces a single count of felony promoting gambling, although their company, Extension Software, licensed the software only to bookmaking operations based in Costa Rica, the Caribbean and Canada — where such betting is legal.

Susanne Stuart’s brother, Patrick Read, 53, is similarly charged. Prosecutor Michael Gates told Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Bonnie Wittner that the defendants made at least $2.3 million in three years — but their real haul is 10 times that, a source told The Post.

Sources say New York’s four crime families — the Gambinos, Bonannos, Luccheses and Genoveses — are among the biggest users of the software, even if they don’t license it directly from the Stuart family.

The software “allows the mob to move out of the back rooms of Bensonhurst and into offshore gambling and the 21st century,” a law-enforcement source said.

Kambi signs sportsbook deal for regulated Belgian market

Belgian licensed betting operator Napoleon Games has selected Unibet’s B2B sports betting division Kambi to deliver a fully managed sportsbook for both web and mobile in the regulated Belgian market.

Kambi Sports Solutions CEO Kristian Nylén said the agreement to provide sportsbook to Napoleon Games, a leading operator in Belgium, further demonstrates the success of Kambi’s strategy in regulated markets.

“I am delighted that Napoleon Games has chosen to partner with Kambi,” said Nylén. “This agreement is further evidence that Kambi’s Sportsbook allows its customers to go head-to-head with industry leaders from day one and of the growing success of Kambi’s strategy in regulated markets. Napoleon Games is an experienced gaming operator and is very highly respected by Belgian players. We look forward to working with Napoleon Games in its efforts to continue be a leading gaming operator.”

Dieter Vanlerberghe, sportsbook manager at Napoleon Games added: “This deal ensures we will have a world class Sportsbook service for our customers. Using Kambi’s Sportsbook, Napoleon Games will be provided with a constantly developing Sportsbook solution that, coupled with our marketing strategy, will leave us ideally placed to attract and retain both new and existing Sportsbook customers in the Belgian market.”

October 26, 2012

Illegal offshore gambling ring could hurt Nevada’s emerging online gaming industry

Just as the Internet gambling industry was building credibility in Nevada with strict regulations, taxation and reputable participants, along came Michael Lloyd Colbert.

Colbert, 32, the local Cantor Gaming sports book director and a Nevada gaming licensee, was among 25 people indicted this week in what New York prosecutors call a national illegal sports-betting ring that ran wagers through offshore Internet gambling sites.

The indictment is clearly bad news for Colbert and his co-defendants. But its effects on Cantor Gaming as a company, the sports book business as a whole and the emerging online gambling industry remain to be seen.

It could cause headaches for local people and companies entering the state’s new regulated online poker industry. That emerging sector has a dozen licensees so far with more in the approval pipeline, including giants Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International and Wynn Resorts.

Any association with illegal Internet gambling by a Nevada licensee presents, at minimum, a public relations problem for online poker.

That’s partly because of online poker’s own troubled past, with cases such as the shutdown of illegal online poker operators on Black Friday in April 2011.

"Anything that doesn’t smell right is a negative for that effort," said Anthony Curtis, publisher of the Las Vegas Advisor, a gaming newsletter and website for consumers.

But David Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at UNLV, said it’s unlikely legal online poker will be tarnished by the sports-betting scandal. That’s because the Internet is merely a tool for communication, he said, and no one would make a connection between legal online poker and illegal sports-betting if the sports bettors were using pencils and paper to execute bets.

Attorney Anthony Cabot, who chairs the gaming law group at the Las Vegas law firm Lewis and Roca, said the indictments illustrate the lack of regulation of most sports betting in the United States. Experts estimate that illegal sports betting could involve $250 billion annually. One of the purposes of legalizing online poker was to regulate and tax the common activity.

"It points to the need for greater transparency" in unregulated sports betting transactions, Cabot said.

As for Cantor Gaming, the company’s sports-betting customers likely were unaffected by Colbert’s alleged criminal activity, Curtis said. One of the key features of legalized sports wagering is that odds on games are posted publicly so gamblers can decide whether to bet and which bets to take.

That means that no matter what Colbert was up to, the lines his books posted were available for anyone to scrutinize, and those who didn’t like them could find odds they liked elsewhere, Curtis said.

Cantor Gaming now faces a public relations quandary with its seven partner casinos in Las Vegas and the potential new partners it hopes to gain as it grows locally. Still, the company should be able to continue operating successfully, as long as higher-ups weren’t involved, Curtis said.

"Right now it looks like it didn’t involve the company and he was putting out a shingle to work on his own," Curtis said.

It’s illegal for Americans to place wagers with offshore sports books but the practice continues — even in Las Vegas, where legal sports books are easy to find. It is particularly rampant among professionals or frequent bettors who want convenience and more favorable betting lines, discounts or rebates, Curtis said.

Cantor undoubtedly will face questions from regulators, even as it moves to distance itself from Colbert.

"Our investigation into this is ongoing and will involve any business holding a gaming license in the state — and that would include Cantor Gaming," Jerry Markling, chief of enforcement for the State Gaming Control Board, said Thursday.

Cantor officials said the arrests had no effect on the company's race and sports books.

"This case relates to Mike Colbert as an individual," Cantor spokeswoman Hannah Sloane said. "This case does not involve Cantor Gaming."

Cantor Gaming has aspirations to enter the Internet poker industry like many of its competitors. One of the questions the company will face is how its own internal compliance department failed to keep tabs on Colbert.

When it was considering selling stock to the public last year, a Cantor affiliate noted how important compliance with gaming laws is.

"We will be subject to disciplinary action by the Nevada Gaming Control Board or Nevada Gaming Commission if we engage in any activity or enter into any association that is unsuitable for us because it poses an unreasonable threat to the control of gaming in Nevada, reflects or tends to reflect discredit or disrepute upon Nevada or gaming in Nevada, or is contrary to Nevada gaming policies," the company said in a regulatory filing.

Colbert acted as one of the criminal enterprise's "money collector/agents'' who built a clientele of bettors for the ring, prosecutors said.

"It is alleged that the agents were the intermediaries between the bettor and the enterprise itself and were responsible for 'squaring up' or 'settling up' with the bettors — usually on a designated day each week — by collecting and paying out money owed," New York prosecutors said.

The ring allegedly collected $50 million in profits over an 18-month period.

October 25, 2012 announce partnership with Zynga has formed an exclusive partnership with social gaming provider Zynga to develop and operate real money online and mobile poker and casino services in the UK.

Under the agreement, will deliver a solution that will include the necessary operating platform, software and related support, to power Zynga’s real money poker and casino services. These services will initially be focused exclusively on UK-based customers and will operate under bwin’s Gibraltar gaming licence.

Jim Ryan and Norbert Teufelberger, the Co-Chief Executive Officers of, said: “Today’s announcement is a further example of our success in leveraging our assets through strategic blue-chip partners.

“Zynga is the world’s leader in social games with hundreds of millions of active players and a significant player base in the UK. We are delighted to have been selected as their chosen partner for this important step in their evolution and hope to expand our relationship into other products and markets.”

The agreement will see Zynga’s real money poker players join bwin’s liquidity pool. Bwin is also developing a FarmVille game slot for Zynga’s real money casino.

The new services will be Zynga branded.

Cantor Sports Director arrested

The Sports Director for Cantor Gaming & Sports Book Manager at the M Resort, Michael Colbert, was arrested Wednesday on a out of state arrest warrant, according to the Clark County Detention Center.

Mr Colbert, 32, was booked into jail Wednesday, with a hearing is scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Monday.

A Nevada gambling regulator said a total of eight Las Vegas area residents have been arrested in a New York City police investigation of illegal bookmaking and money laundering.

Gaming Control Board enforcement chief Jerry Markling said beside Colbert, the seven others are not involved with Cantor Gaming. A Cantor spokesman said the case doesn’t involve the company. A company spokeswoman said the company had no comment on Colbert’s arrest.

All those arrested faces enterprise corruption, money laundering and conspiracy charges in New York, Markling said.

Colbert has been the public face of Cantor Gaming since the company arrived to Las Vegas more than three years ago. He served as the sports book director at the M Resort, Cantor’s first property, from the day it opened in March 2009.

The M sports book found immediate, unprecedented success under Colbert’s watch. By offering the highest limits in town and an expanded betting menu that included Las Vegas’ first-ever in-running wagering, it became ground zero for the biggest bettors in Las Vegas.

Cantor grew from there and currently operates sports books at six other casinos — the Venetian, Palazzo, Palms, Cosmopolitan, Hard Rock and Tropicana.

October 23, 2012

EU Weighs Money-Laundering Curbs in Online Gambling Action Plan

The European Union may toughen safeguards against money laundering through online betting sites and promote hotlines against match fixing as part of a push to boost protection of gamblers and counter fraud.

The European Commission will also speed up probes into whether national restrictions on online gambling firms are legal in a bid to clarify market-access rules for the industry, according to an EU official.

The measures will be included in an action plan for the online gaming and betting industry to be published tomorrow by Michel Barnier, the EU’s financial services chief, said the official, who asked not to be identified because the plans aren’t yet public.

The EU’s top court in recent years has examined a series of cases brought by betting companies including Bwin.Party digital entertainment Plc, Ladbrokes Plc and Betfair Ltd. over whether it is legal for state monopolies to block them from operating freely across the 27-nation region. Online gambling firms have also called on the EU to take action against what they say are unjustified national restrictions on cross-border gambling.

Since 2006, the Brussels-based commission has probed whether national rules in states such as Germany, France and Italy comply with EU laws. Many investigations are ongoing.

The Brussels-based commission has received complaints about market-access curbs in 20 EU nations, the official said.

Nations tend to justify the curbs on the basis that they are needed to protect citizens from gambling addiction and to prevent crime.

Barnier has said that any moves at EU level to remove market barriers mustn’t harm these consumer protection and law enforcement objectives.

The commission has considered and rejected proposing legislation to clarify competition rules for the industry, the official said.

On money laundering, the commission will weigh whether to extend legislation for casinos to online gaming firms, the official said.

The law sets out identity checks and other monitoring that gaming companies must carry out on their customers. It also requires casinos to report suspicious activities to the authorities.

October 22, 2012

Mysterious Canadian online poker player making headlines with huge winnings

For all of the whispers and buzz Viktor “Isildur1″ Blom generated when he was an anonymous online poker player playing, and holding his own, against some of the most high profile poker players in the world, a new unidentified online poker player has become the talk of the town, thanks in part to this player laying waste to the high-stakes games in PokerStars.

The player, who goes by the handle 1Il|1Il|1il| and has been dubbed by the online poker community as “Barcode” is raking in serious profits at PokerStars, taking on some of the best online poker players, including, ironically, Viktor “Isildur1″ Blom himself.

According to PokerListings, Barcode even went bonkers on Isildur1, cleaning out the online poker legend for $173,000. More impressively, Barcode has already made $1.2 million in profit for the month of October – and last we checked, we still have over a week before November hits. This dude – or lady – is serious business.

The highlight of Barcode’s October rampage occurred last week when on a single day, he/she managed to obliterate the tables, racking up $500,000 of winnings on what we presume to be $200/$400 PLO games on Stars.

The real identity of Barcode has become a water cooler topic recently with plenty of speculation going around as to who he or she really is. The account is located in Canada, which could suggest that he or she is Canadian, although this has yet to be confirmed.

Be that as it may, there’s no denying that Barcode has been on the kind of heater run where legends are born. The player has had its share of losses – his/her initial go round when he/she first broke into the high-stakes online scene saw him/her drop $200,000 – but he/she also become more known for being the talk of the online poker world for being in the middle of one of the sickest runs we’ve seen in quite sometime.

Anybody that can win $500,000 on a single day playing poker certainly deserves the attention he or she is getting.

October 18, 2012

Bodog closes to UK customers

Bodog have closed their online site to players in the United Kingdom and Europe, who will now be unable to access the poker rooms. In addition to this, the main UK Bodog casino website has temporarily closed for the overhaul, with new sign ups not being accepted.

A partner brand of Bodog is reported to have said in a statement that the website will also be removing a number of features, including the sportsbook, racebook and poker rooms.

UK customers have been left feeling confused, as the BodogEU website recently shut down and redirected their online traffic to The freeze on this website has resulted in many UK players feeling dissatisfied with Bodogs treatment of them. In addition to this, Bodog removed their services from 20 European countries earlier this year; including some Eastern European areas, parts of the Middle East and Belgium.

BodogUK stated that upon the sites relaunch there would be no poker features available. They instead wanted to focus more on traditional casino games, such as baccarat, and live dealer games. If players are not satisfied with this service anymore than Bodog informs them that they can cash out and leave with their funds.

For those wanting to stay with the Bodog brand, then they can attempt to create a new account with the Asian facing website, However, the appearance and features of the website are designed to attract the Asian audience. The organisation is set to pour most of their focus on the Asian market, much to the negligence of their UK customers.

Robert Gustafsson, the Managing Director, stated There are estimated to be at least 100,000,000 Chinese living outside China and if you then include Thai, Malay and Vietnamese expats, you have more than just a niche market but one that has been ignored by other operators despite being far and away the largest consumer group of casino games on the planet…

He added, can offer a totally different product to a totally different audience and while we still offers sports betting, the all important casino customer will be our main source of revenue.

Sportingbet set to agree takeover for £530 million

William Hill has increased its proposed offer for Sportingbet, valuing the online gaming company at £530m.

The offer from the British bookmaker and GVC Holdings includes the recently announced 48.9p a share in cash from William Hill, and 0.0475 new GVC shares per Sportingbet share.

William Hill submitted a £350m proposalwith GVC in September but it was rejected by Sportingbet’s board as undervaluing the company.

In a statement on Tuesday, Sportingbet said it had agreed to work with William Hill and GVC toward a firm offer, which if made, the board would unanimously recommend it to shareholders.

William Hill had been required to announce a firm offer for the online gaming company by 5pm today, but the Takeover Panel has extended this deadline to 5pm on November 13.

William Hill is after Sportingbet’s Australian business, which accounts for 90pc of its profits.

GVC, which last year bought Sportingbet’s Turkish business for £113m, would take on the more politically sensitive, unregulated operations.

October 09, 2012

PokerStars confirms stake in Hippodrome Casino

The Sunday Times reported that PokerStars, the worlds biggest online poker site had taken a stake in the recently opened Hippodrome Casino in London operated by Simon Thomas and his family, which would value the venue at some £100 million.

PokerStars Director of Communications, Eric Hollreiser:

PokerStars will refurbish and re-brand the poker deck at the Hippodrome Casino to create the UK’s first PokerStars’ poker room.

In 2013, the Hippodrome will become home to a range of new PokerStars’ sponsored tournaments and special events which the site will promote to its customer base of 50 million registered players.

PokerStars has also taken an equity investment in the Hippodrome as part of the deal. However not releasing the amount of the deal, PokerStars can say that the valuation reported in the Sunday Times is not accurate.

PokerStars will also provide poker for a future Hippodrome online casino site.

Guy Templer, Group Strategy Director for PokerStars, said “PokerStars’ expertise and success in both online and live poker makes partnering with Hippodrome a natural fit.” And continued, “the Hippodrome has dramatically raised the quality bar for the UK casino industry,” Templer said, “So together we will give poker players the same great poker experience, live 24/7 in the heart of London that they get from PokerStars online. We are looking forward to unveiling some great new live events for the UK poker market in 2013.”

Crockfords casino refuses to pay £7.3 million winnings

A source with close knowledge of the dispute described the situation as unprecedented.

Mr Ivey, a 35-year-old Californian, was playing Punto Banco, when he struck a remarkable winning streak.

The 184-year-old casino initially agreed to transfer the winnings to his bank account, but six weeks on it has returned only his £1 million stake.

Instead it began an exhaustive inquiry.

Staff, including the female dealers at the punto banca table, were interviewed at length amid fears there may have been some form of collusion.

This is thought to have been ruled out now since the enquiry.

While it is unclear what, if anything, Mr Ivey has been accused of, lawyers for both sides are said to be engaged in an increasingly tense stand-off. It is not thought that police have been alerted.

Sources said Mr Ivey played for two nights over the August bank holiday for about seven hours in all.

Suspicions over the win intensified when it was discovered that his companion’s membership of another Mayfair casino had previously been suspended.

The reason for this has not been revealed.

Crockfords, the oldest private gaming club in the world, is owned by Genting, company investigators flew to London from Kuala Lumpur to speak to everyone who was working on the two nights in question and to examine hours of film from surveillance cameras.

The cards used and the shoe they were dealt from were also scrutinised.

‘No imperfections, or marks, that would have given Ivey an advantage were found.

In any case, Ivey at no time touched the cards,’ said a source.

‘The shoe was also thoroughly inspected; once again the investigators drew a blank.’

Mr Ivey, who once picked up £10 million in a poker tournament in Las Vegas, was playing in a small private room on the ground floor of Crockfords.

He sat next to his companion.

The only other people in the room were the croupiers and an inspector.

All the action was recorded on ten cameras.

At the time of publication no comment was made from Crockfords about the incident.

October 08, 2012

Italian Online Poker Collapses

Italian state regulator, L’Amministrazione Autonoma dei Monopoli di Stato (AAMS) has released its annual report which shows clearly the serious decline in online poker revenue. From a high of €41m in January, gaming revenues have fallen 43% to just over €23m.

Tournament revenues are down almost 75% since regulation was first introduced having disintegrated from a high in January 2011 of €35.3m to an August 2012 low of €9.1m.

Cash games, which were first introduced just over 15 months ago and initially proved a boom for the market, are down 41% in the last year.

Italy’s poker problems can be put down to two inter-related issues: high gaming taxes and low player liquidity. The tax levy is the highest in Europe, which substantially increases the entertainment cost for recreational players and make the games an unviable source of income for professionals.

Additionally, the player pool is restricted to Italian citizens only. The artificial restriction means tournament prize pools are naturally lower, and a narrower selection of games run, which attracts fewer recreational players and, in turn, fewer serious players.

Recent discussion between Spanish and Italian regulators may result in a joint player pool at some stage next year. The discussions do at least point to the regulators being aware of the problem. Discussions with its French counterpart also continue, although ARJEL recently played down the possibility of shared liquidity between the two countries.

Italy’s experience with taxing and regulating online poker demonstrates more clearly than any rational argument that poker is different from other forms of online gambling and needs to be taxed and regulated accordingly.

Unfortunately the solution to the problem is political. In this time of austerity the probability of getting the political support necessary to cut online poker taxes and abandon the state monopoly is fairly low. The future of online poker in Italy is far from bright.

October 05, 2012

British Horseracing Authority charges 9, including jockey and 3 soccer players, over fixing

The British Horseracing Authority has charged a jockey and eight others, including three soccer players, with race fixing.

The charges follow an investigation into suspicious betting, focusing on wagers that horses would lose between November 2010 and March 2011.

Jockey Andrew Heffernan, who is licensed to ride in Australia, has been charged with five corruption offenses, including offering to receive or receiving a bribe and “intentionally failed to ensure that a horse ridden by him was run on its merits.”

Among the eight other people charged is Ipswich striker Michael Chopra, who is accused of offering a bribe to Heffernan and conspiring to “commit a corrupt or fraudulent practice by placing bets.”

Nottingham Forest midfielder James Coppinger and former Manchester United player Mark Wilson also have been charged.

October 04, 2012

Stoichkov to Be Questioned over Match-Fixing Statements

Bulgarian authorities are to question former Barcelona striker Hristo Stoichkov regarding his recent criticism of betting related match-fixing in the country, according to a local media report.

Stoichkov is to be questioned in Bulgaria's Chief Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime on Thursday, local media have revealed.

The authorities want the legendary Barcelona forward to shed more light on his statements that the Bulgarian state and the Bulgarian Football Union have failed to stop the illegal activities going on in the country's football championship.

Recently, Stoichkov, who is currently coaching the team of Litex Lovech, called upon Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov to deal with betting related match-fixing, suggesting that Tsvetanov may have been "afraid" to tackle the issue.

"I'm personally not afraid to speak, I'm not afraid of anything," Stoichkov declared earlier in September.

He further stated that several teams have been involved in match-fixing.

According to the Sega daily, Stoichkov will be also questioned regarding the May 12 game in which Litex smashed relegation favorites Kavarna 5:0. It is still unclear whether it is among the 16 games in the Bulgarian championship that UEFA considers suspicious.

At the end of August, a BBC investigation revealed that Bulgaria's football is deeply involved in mafia businesses, with match-fixing and money laundering being just the tip of a criminal iceberg that lurks beneath the surface of the game.

The BBC investigation was triggered by continuing reports that football in Bulgaria is riddled with corrupt practices including match-fixing and the illegal procurement of European Union passports for overseas players.

October 03, 2012

Legal complaints could impact OPAP value, says RGA

The Remote Gambling Association has alerted banks handling the sale of OPAP to three legal complaints that could affect the monopoly’s future value, as the lobby group maintains pressure on Greece to open its online sports betting market.

In the letter to Deutsche Bank and the National Bank of Greece, the world’s largest online gambling trade association provided details of three outstanding complaints against OPAP’s monopoly, two lodged with the EC and another with the Greek Council of State, “that could have a material effect on the future value of OPAP”.

Greece’s privatisation agency HRADF forged ahead with the sale process for its 33% stake in OPAP last week, despite a key legal advisor to Europe’s highest court casting doubts on the sustainability of OPAP’s monopoly and analysts projecting that a 30% tax on gross revenue and 10% on winnings on all of OPAP’s operations from 2013, introduced under pressure from the EC, could wipe up to €280m off annual profit.

The RGA’s letter has been sent on behalf of its members, which include bet365, Betfair,, Paddy Power, Sportingbet, Unibet and William Hill, many of which have been impacted by Greece’s law and regulations designed to protect the position of its betting monopoly.

Chief executive Clive Hawkswood said that while Greece had been pressurised by the EC into withdrawing OPAP’s preferential tax treatment on its land-based operations, there were other issues that had yet to be resolved, not least the Greek state’s intention to extend OPAP’s sports betting monopoly online.

“[I]t is only right that we brought these to the attention of Deutsche Bank to ensure that they are properly reflected in the sale process”, said Hawkswood. He said that the RGA’s position may change if the online sports betting market was fully opened and all potential stakeholders were taxed and treated equally. “[T]he Greek Government, online betting customers and gambling operators will [then] benefit from a fair and competitive market that operates in compliance with EU rules.”

The RGA’s first complaint to the EC competition directorate concerns the retrospective taxes applied to EU-licensed operators since last August, when Greece passed its online gaming act. The RGA complaint argues that the tax regime amounts to a potential form of State Aid as it exempts the OPAP-controlled land-based sector in Greece.

The RGA has also submitted a joint complaint with its continental counterpart the European Gaming and Betting Association (EGBA) to the EC’s Internal Market and Services Directorate. This submits that OPAP’s offline sports betting monopoly is an unjustified obstacle to free trade within the EU, while also potentially being awarded the online sports betting monopoly.

Finally, the RGA has petitioned the Greek Council of State on the basis that the retrospective tax regime for online operators represents an unconstitutional restriction on the right to conduct a business activity in Greece. The case is set to be heard in December.

Sportingbet Slips to Loss in FY on One-Time Charges

London-based Sportingbet Plc, an online sports betting and gaming company, on Friday fell steeply into loss for the full year in contrast to a profit last year. The outcome reflected one-time items like Spanish tax settlements, property, plant impairment costs and costs pertaining to its Turkey market exit, among others.

For the full year, the company reported a pre-tax loss of 45.4 million pounds compared with a profit of 20.7 million pounds last year, while revealing a total loss of 52.3 million pounds from a profit of 21 million pounds in 2011. The company witnessed a sharp rise in charges pertaining to exceptional items that rose to 71.6 million pounds from 10.8 million pounds last year.

On a per share basis, the company reported a loss of 6.8 pence in 2012 compared with profit of 3.9 pence in 2011. However, on an adjusted basis, the company reported a profit of 5.3 pence per share in 2012.

Total revenue for the year also declined to 195.9 million pounds from 206.3 million pounds last year, with net gaming revenue slumping to 185.7 million pounds from 204 million pounds in the prior year.

Further, the company said its Board had proposed a final dividend of 1.1 pence, totaling a full year figure of 1.7 pence. The dividend may be paid on January 17, 2013 to ordinary shareholders on the record as of December 21, 2012.

"We are confident that the increased advertising opportunities, improved payment processing and stable business platform provided by our regulated market presence will drive profitable growth in the medium term. Whilst the economic outlook remains challenging, our robust position across a variety of attractive territories gives us confidence in the outlook for the current financial year," stated Andrew McIver, Group, Chief Executive.

The shares are currently trading at 51.45 pence, down 1.55 pence or 2.92 percent on the London Stock Exchange.

French sport star Nikola Karabatic held over match-fixing

French police have detained double Olympic gold medal winner Nikola Karabatic and several other players in connection with allegations of match-fixing and illegal betting in French handball.

At least seven players in the French league were placed under formal arrest, a source close to the investigation said, without naming the players.
A police source said eight players for Montpellier, including Karabatic and his brother, Luka, two players for Paris Saint-Germain formerly with Montpellier, a member of staff for Montpellier and a player's girlfriend had been detained for questioning in the probe.

Five of the Montpellier players, including Nikola Karabatic, Tunisian Wissem Hmam, Frenchman Mickael Robin, and Slovenians Dragan Gajic and Primoz Prost, were put into police cars and driven away in a convoy, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

The team's physiotherapist, Yann Montiege, also left with police.

The convoy was later seen arriving at the offices of the interior ministry's racing and gaming division in the Paris suburb of Nanterre.

The players were questioned in their dressing rooms at the Pierre de Coubertin stadium in Paris immediately following a match between Montpellier and Paris Saint-Germain, a source close to the players said.

An AFP journalist at the stadium earlier saw plainclothes police showing badges to guards to enter the stadium.

Three people were detained for questioning in Montpellier on Sunday on suspicion of placing illegal bets, a source close to the investigation said.

Karabatic, 28, is considered one of the greatest players of the game and won gold medals with the French team at this year's London Olympics and the 2008 Games in Beijing.

The French professional handball scene was thrown into turmoil on Wednesday after an investigation was ramped up into giants Montpellier over alleged match-fixing and illegal betting.

The south coast club has dominated French handball for 15 years, and officials were quick to protest the innocence of their players.

Suspicions were raised over a match that Montpellier lost 31-28 to Cesson-Sevigne on May 12. At the time, Montpellier were assured of a 13th league title in 15 seasons while the Breton club sat in eighth position.

Betting firm La Francaise des Jeux (FDJ) reported abnormal betting patterns up to five times greater than expected and suspended bets during the match.

Large bets reportedly came in at half-time on a loss for Montpellier, for whom the Karabatic brothers, Mladen Bojinovic, Vid Kavticnik and Samuel Honrubia were not playing because of injury.

France 3 television reported that police had discovered that wives or girlfriends of players and club members had placed bets in three betting shops in the Paris region, the western region of Brittany, and around Montpellier.

October 02, 2012

Sportingbet pressures William Hill to up bid

Online gambling firm Sportingbet Plc said a 350 million pound offer approach by bookmaker William Hill and GVC Holdings "significantly undervalues" it, but left the door open for a higher bid.

It had received a takeover approach at 52.5 pence per share, consisting of 45 pence in cash from William Hill and 7.5 pence in shares in smaller online betting firm GVC, Sportingbet said on Monday.

"The board of Sportingbet has responded that this indicative offer significantly undervalues the business and its future prospects," it said.

However, it did not say it was rejecting the offer outright.

The statement followed speculation in the weekend press that the board had received a letter containing the joint bid approach, which it had unanimously turned down.

Analysts expect the bidders to come back with a higher offer.

"We believe Sportingbet is worth over 60 pence per share, excluding any bid speculation, and expect Wednesday's full year results to show the business continues to make strong underlying progress," said Panmure Gordon analysts on Monday.

Sportingbet is forecast to report pre-tax profits of around 30 million pounds on sales of 200 million on Wednesday, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S estimates.

Sportingbet has seen its European operations struggle with the economic downturn and a changing regulatory map, but has a strong core Australian business that is attractive to traditional bookmaker William Hill as it expands overseas.

Numis said shareholders should hold out for 90 pence per share, citing the business growth potential and saying it was a chance for the bidder to snap up a bargain while trading was at a low point.

Shares have risen from a low of 26 pence in May to 44 pence just before the approach was announced last month, and have been trading at around the offer level since then.

The bidders have until October 16 to make a firm bid or walk away under UK takeover rules, although this deadline can be extended.

Sportingbet and William Hill both declined to comment further.

October 01, 2012

William Hill consider raising offer for Sportingbet

William Hill & GVC Holdings, is expected to raise its price after we reported earlier that Sportingbet had rejected a £350m approach. (see previous report)

The joint venture offerer a 52.5p a share bid to Sportingbet by letter, which was unanimously rejected by the Sportingbet board.

The £350m bid would have seen William Hill put up 45p a share in cash while Sportingbet investors would have received the remainder in GVC paper.

William Hill would not comment on the reports, but it is believed that Ralph Topping, William Hill’s CEO, and GVC boss Kenny Alexander will agree to raise the stakes before a Takeover Panel deadline on October 16.

Analysts expect the two joint bidders will have to offer more than 60p a share, even though the online bookie’s share price has not gone north of 52.25p since William Hill and GVC announced on September 19 that they were in exclusive talks about making a joint approach. A 60p a share bid would value Sportingbet at £400m.

William Hill is after Sportingbet’s Australian business, which accounts for 90pc of its profits.

GVC, which last year bought Sportingbet’s Turkish business for €142.5m (£113m), would take on the more politically sensitive, unregulated operations.

Sportingbet’s advisers at Lazard are trying to drum up interest among other operators in the sector, such as Ladbrokes, to spark off a bidding war.

But many analysts believe a rival approach is unlikely given that few others will want to take on Sportingbet’s unregulated assets.

Arsenal Lotto to support Arsenal Foundation

Arsenal Football Club is delighted to announce the launch of the Arsenal Lotto which will give Arsenal supporters the chance to win life-changing prize money twice a week and support The Arsenal Foundation in the process.

The Arsenal Lotto, the first of its kind in UK football, is set to be the biggest and most exciting fundraising initiative which allows fans over 18 to take part, win big cash prizes and make a difference at the same time.

The recently launched Arsenal Foundation, a grant making charity which transforms the lives of young people through sport and education initiatives, is set to benefit from all proceeds the Club receives from fans participating in the Arsenal Lotto.

To play the Arsenal Lotto, supporters will be invited to select six numbers online via plus a ‘legend’ number from 0-9 to play this lotto the Arsenal way. Bets cost £1 per line and average jackpots of £4.7m with rollovers of up to £36m can be won.

The Arsenal Lotto draws take place every Wednesday around 6pm and every Saturday between 7pm and 10pm. Six numbers (the main numbers) are drawn, along with an additional bonus number plus the “Legend” number. The first draw for Arsenal Lotto players takes place on Saturday 29th September, the day Arsenal take on Chelsea at Emirates Stadium. Supporters can play online from Thursday 27th September to be in with a chance of winning.

Arsenal Football Club CEO and trustee of The Arsenal Foundation, Ivan Gazidis said: “We have been looking for ways to engage fans even more in the good work the Club does in its community and its charitable projects. Whilst some may wish to volunteer or participate in fundraising events, others may look for a more simple way to engage and raise money. The Arsenal Lotto gives them this option.”

Egidio Messito, CEO at MyLotto24 which powers the Arsenal Lotto said: “This launch is a game-changer for any organisation wishing to harness the power of lottery. Most important of all, thousands of young people will benefit from projects The Arsenal Foundation funds.” sells Ongame for an initial €15m has agreed to sell Ongame poker network to Canada’s Amaya Gaming Group for an initial consideration of €15m, with an additional amount of up to €10m becoming payable if regulated online gaming is introduced in the United States within five years.

The sale is subject to conditions including regulatory approvals and is expected to complete during the fourth quarter of 2012, at which time the management of Ongame will transfer with the business to Amaya.

Amaya will pay €15m in cash upon completion, with up to a further €10m payable if regulated online gaming is introduced in the US within five years. The exact amount of the contingent consideration will depend on the extent of regulation in the United States based upon the number of states that regulate and the total population covered.

The terms of the sale are similar to those agreed between and Shufflemaster before the latter withdrew from the deal, however, the overall consideration is now 15 per cent lower than that previously agreed with Shufflemaster. co-CEO Jim Ryan commented: “The sale of Ongame conforms to our strategy, especially as we move closer to launching our single, proprietary technology platform in the next few months. We believe Ongame will fit well into Amaya Gaming and has an excellent future ahead.”

“The acquisition of Ongame bolsters Amaya Gaming’s product portfolio, transforming Amaya into a leading provider of gaming platforms,” added Amaya CEO David Baazov. “Amaya looks forward to unleashing Ongame’s technology to its full potential through the leveraging of our many B2B relationships and delivering new partners and players to the network.”

Amaya said the acquisition of Ongame would position it to participate in the US market should the government decide to regulate online poker, while at the same time strengthening it's B2B interactive product portfolio.

September 27, 2012

Ryan Tunnicliffe's Manchester United debut wins his father £10,000

After betting £100 on his son when he was just nine, that he would play for the first team, Mick Tunnicliffe makes a 100/1 profit - with a 350/1 wager on an England bow waiting

The 19-year-old came on to replace fellow debutant Marnick Vermijl at Old Trafford, which was not only a personal highlight for the former Peterborough loanee, but a family highlight as his father’s 10-year-old 100/1 bet finally paid out.

Mick Tunnicliffe was so certain that his son would make it as a professional footballer he put a £100 bet on at bookmakers William Hill that his son would play a competitive first-team game for Manchester United.

The bet was looking good as Tunnicliffe progressed through United’s youth set-up, even captaining the academy to a FA Youth Cup triumph two years ago.

With £10,000 already in his pocket, Mick Tunnicliffe will be hoping his son eventually makes an England debut as he put on another £100 bet at the same time but with odds of 350/1 which, if successful, would pay out a further £35,000.

“The last time a bet of this nature cost us £10,000 was when Chris Kirkland made his debut in goal for England, also landing a £100 bet for his father,” said William Hill's media relations manager, Graham Sharpe.

“We will obviously be paying close attention to the progress of Ryan’s career in the future.”

Greece offers more OPAP to get privatizations on track

Greece will sell almost all of its stake in gambling monopoly OPAP, the government said on Thursday, increasing the amount that is for sale in an attempt to convince foreign lenders that it is serious about selling off state assets. Athens, which owns 34 percent of one of Europe's biggest gaming companies, has launched a tender to sell a 33 percent stake in the company, the privatization agency HRADF said. Previously Greece had planned to sell 29 percent of OPAP, currently worth about 450 million euros on the Athens bourse. OPAP is central to Greece's plan to raise 19 billion euros from privatizations by 2015 - a key condition of its 130-billion euro bailout agreed earlier this year. It is the country's most profitable state firm with a sports betting monopoly stretching, for some games, as far as 2030. Greece is badly behind on privatization targets and the three-month-old, conservative-led government has pledged to do better as it struggles to convince the EU and the IMF to resume the bailout payments that keep the country afloat. "The fact that OPAP is being completely sold off shows the government's will to privatize," said Dimitris Mardas, an economics professor at Thessaloniki's Aristotle University. HRADF set an October 19 deadline for expressions of interest and said the tender would be carried out in two phases. After an initial declaration of interest, bidders will be called to submit binding offers, HRADF said. The agency has the right to introduce an intermediary phase of non-binding bids in order to evaluate bidders' business plans. "The complete privatization of OPAP will be carried out transparently, rapidly and with efficiency," HRADF's chief executive Yiannis Emiris said in the statement. A senior government official told Reuters earlier this month that Athens aimed to find a buyer for OPAP by January and that four consortia of Greek and foreign companies were interested in the company. Turkish conglomerate Dogan Holding said on Monday it would consider taking part in a sale tender for OPAP. Investment funds Fidelity and Silchester Inv. already hold 5 percent each in the company. Greece has picked Deutsche Bank and National Bank of Greece as financial advisers, it added. Athens has already moved to clear issues that might block the company's sale. Earlier this month, it settled a row with European Union competition authorities over how the company should be taxed and set a new 30 percent levy on gross earnings from next year. But investors' appetites might be dampened by an ongoing court challenge against the Greek company's monopoly brought by Britain's biggest bookmaker William Hill and online gaming companies Sportingbet and Stanleybet after they were denied gambling licenses in the country. A senior EU legal adviser raised questions about OPAP's right to control all betting in the country last week. Greece's highest administrative court is expected to issue a final ruling on the case in the coming months.

September 25, 2012

Tackling match fixing needs good governance

In the past two years, the world of sport and politics finally woke up to the fact that match fixing is a serious threat to the integrity and popularity of sport and the livelihoods of all those involved in sport, especially professional and amateur athletes. The result is a flurry of international dialogues and initiatives, including a number of law enforcement partnerships and the “Nicosia declaration on the fight against match-fixing” just approved by the European Union-Sportforum under the Cyprian Presidency. These are welcome steps. We now have serious political muscle brought to bear on a problem that has mushroomed globally, primarily because of the massive increase in sports revenues, international betting and the growth of organised crime in this area. But sometimes I fear that many of these efforts are primarily focused on blaming the athletes, without enough attention given to the problematic circumstances they face in their respective sports and that this focus distracts from the continued lack of good governance at the top of sport organisations. What sports organisations have not yet acknowledged and what the EU declaration points out briefly, is that there is a strong link between good governance in the bodies that run sports and the sport organisations’ credibility in the fight against match-fixing. This is important. Unless sport organisations are accountable and transparent they will not have the authority to tackle the problem and win the trust of those involved in sport as participants or fans. The “tone at the top” is decisive when confronting wrongdoing and everybody involved in compliance and anti-corruption work will tell you this whether it is in sports, government or business. Corruption within any sport can come in many forms. In football, for example, weak national sports bodies that do oversee best practice in their leagues often allow team owners to misuse players and thereby make them vulnerable to match fixers. We see sad examples of this in the FIFPRO black book for 2011 which documents case studies of players bullied or not paid for months. We also see this in the use of cash to pay players’ and officials’ expenses, and even huge sums for players’ transfers. Wherever there are cash transactions people can get used to not documenting payments transparently and there is room for illegal, off-the-books transactions. A culture of transparency and education are the best ways to prevent abuses. Players and officials need to know that their leagues and sports organisations are there to support them and this must be explicit in the form of codes of conduct that are put into practice every day. In my view, sports organisations must remain outside of government and function independent of political influence – because it is all too easy for politicians to co-opt sport for their own purposes. History shows us how bad this can be. But being accountable in one’s own affairs and therefore implementing good governance is a prerequisite for autonomy. The European Union has put it clearly in its communication on the European dimension of sport (January 18, 2011, 4.1 Promotion of good governance in sport): “Good governance in sport is a condition for the autonomy and self-regulation of sport organisations.” Sport organisations on all levels have to work on their governance. The EU is supporting this process by funding projects on good governance. Some sport organisations have started, some – like FIFA – forced to do so by major scandals, others – like the International Cricket Council – on their own. From the point of view of a civil society organisation that has spent the last two decades looking for ways to fight corruption, the Nicosia declaration on match fixing provided a welcome endorsement of the role of prevention and education and linked it to good governance within sporting bodies. At Transparency International we are closely watching how our first initiative in this area plays out in the field. The Deutsche Fussballliga (German professional football leagues I and II) teamed up with Transparency International Germany to develop a programme on preventing match fixing with workshops for players and coaches. In May 2011 an ombudsman was introduced to the league who will be a point person for whistleblowers. We are also in contact with the European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) to use the German experience in other countries. To my mind, sport is moving in the right direction but the commitments to improve education and prevention now must be followed through, just as the reform processes with international sports organisations must be seen as more than just window dressing to stave off political meddling.